Hawaii – Day 8 of 15, Maui

Maui in the background as seen from the air. Lanai in foreground.

Today we packed up and left Oahu for Maui.  it was sad to leave an island on which we have seen and done so much, but exciting to move on to another with supposedly a completely different personality.

The inter-island portion of the Honolulu airport is a dream to go through!  There was literally nobody in line for security and the terminal for Go! Mokulele, our airline is small and quaint.  It also had a feature we enjoyed!

A feature in the airport lounge of Go! Mokulele Airlines.

Maui does indeed look different!  It does not have the big city or commercial area of Waikiki; but, it does have more of a southern California feel.  Across the street from the car rental office was a Whole Foods!  Still, there are no large highways and the speed limit never goes higher than 45 mph.

Just before sunset.

We needed a day to reset.  We had packed, turned in a car, flown, picked up another, unpacked, we needed familiar ground and so we took a day off from Hawaiian food and ordered pizza in the hotel restaurant.  It was a thin crispy crust worthy of a New York pizzeria!  (none of my friends from New York would believe that but that’s just them.)

Sunset at Wailea on the island of Maui

We are on the southern coast of Maui in a town called Wailea.  I have heard that the Maui sunset is something to behold.  Don’t miss a day one book said, each one is different.  I saw clouds gathering on the horizon and couldn’t believe it would be all that great.

I was wrong, it was like something out of a painting.  It was the warmest welcome to Maui I could imagine!  Over the next week we have a lot of sights to see, but I think there will also be a little more relaxation at this beautiful resort.

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Hawaii – Day 7 of 15, Snorkeling Hanauma Bay

The Dragon Fruit

Today began with a fruit I have never seen or heard of before, the Dragon Fruit.  I bought it at the Honolulu Farmers’ Market.  When whole, it looks like a cross between a pineapple and an artichoke, only it’s red.  It is about the size of a small mango. 

A whole dragon fruit. When cut open it was beet-red with a lot of seeds. Sort of a red kiwi. It had an exotic flavor, not sweet, not tart, but exotic the way a papaya is.

When we woke up today it was raining with thunder and lightning.  A storm in paradise?  Not to worry.  In a lot of places in the world they say “If you don’t like the weather just wait a minute and it will change”.  In Hawaii they say, “If you don’t like the weather, just get in your car and drive.”  Sure enough, the weather on the other side of the island was better.

Our destination today was Hanauma Bay.  Lauded as the finest snorkeling in all of the Hawaiian Islands, it did not disappoint!

Hanauma Bay

Nestled between two large craters, this small bay is a wildlife preserve and the fish seem to know it.  I don’t have underwater photo gear, so I don’t have pictures but it was like swimming in an aquarium!  Brightly colored fish were everywhere!  It was like being on the set of Finding Nemo.

Here is a link to the Honolulu Parks Dept official website for Hanauma Bay and it has a slide show of all the fish one can see and we saw all  of them!

Hanauma Bay Website

Beach level at Hanauma Bay

The snorkeling is almost surreal.  Because of the rain elsewhere on the island, the crowds were unusually small and my wife and I had much of the bay to ourselves.  It’s a great feeling to float just below the surface with no effort, and move with just a small kick of the fins.

All around us were fish I have only seen in aquariums, and a lot of them!  The bay is filled with coral reef and it created a sort of path we could swim through.  under every reef and all around it were hundreds of brilliant colored fish.  My first thought as we glided through the water was that it felt like flying and the reef looked like canyons below.

Then I realized a better analogy was that if felt like being a fish!  We could see everything and occasionally one of us would point something out to the other.  The fish were not the least bit disturbed and simply went about their business.

This shot of the bay shows the reef (dark area) and the brighter sandy areas acted as passageways to swim around the reefs.

We left Hanauma Bay and drove up the eastern or Windward Shore of Oahu.  There were dramatic lush green mountains that came right down to the roadside.  This is the result of volcanoes.  The effect is inspiring and I could not take enough pictures.

We also saw some roadside beaches with big surf and real surfers!  This was really exciting.  They paddle pretty far off shore and seem to wait a long time for the right wave but when it comes they jump up on their feet and ride it often for a long time!

Surfers on the Windward Coast

 Also along the road are numerous shrimp farms and roadside shacks and trucks that sell the shrimp. 

A typical roadside shrimp truck

My wife Alice has been a pretty good sport on all of the food adventures so today, in deference to her we opted for a little more upscale than the shrimp truck. 

The rather posh Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore

We ate at the posh Turtle Bay Resort, site of the 2002 surfer movie Blue Crush.  This resort is at the very northern tip of Oahu.  Lunch included a couple of local beers that have become favorites of ours.

Two great local beers.

 Today was our last full day on Oahu.  Tomorrow it’s off to Maui.

Hawaii – Day 6 of 15, Hawaiian Local Food, The Punchbowl Crater and Roy’s Hawaiian Cuisine

Our own private lagoon!

Today began on the beach–our own private beach in a lagoon that for whatever reason was almost empty!  The water is blue and the perfect temperature.  The sun is bright.  The beginning of each day includes a ritual of SPF 50 on the body and SPF 100 on the face (and in my case the dome).  Forget the iPad, it’s so bright you would have to be in the shade to read a book on it.

It is not, however, particularly hot.  In fact, the temperature never varies more than 15° all year long!

We spent time at the beach and then sought out some local food.  I have been reading about Hawaiian food and it is casual and not particularly healthy, but a sort of island soul food.  We found it at a place called Hawaiian BBQ.

The Hawaiian Sampler, clockwise from top left: Kahlua pork, haupa rice, Hawaiian beef stew, and a lau lau.

The food was fantastic, but enough to feed 6 people.  I knew I was in trouble when they handed me the styrofoam container and it weighed about 3 lbs!

It contained Kahlua Pork, the Hawaiian version of pulled pork.  That is amazing bbq!  Next to it was haupa rice which is a combination of brown and white rice.  Haupa she told me means “mixed”.  There was beef stew which seemed out of place but the veggies were local and the beef was braised like short ribs.  There was also an item called a laulau.  This was braised pork wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.  It was sort of like a tamale, and sort of like a Polish galumpki.  It was packed with concentrated flavor and possibly my favorite item on the platter.

The Lomi lomi is a distinctive Hawaiian preparation for salmon.

Beside the platter was a small cup of Lomi Lomi.  This is a salmon dish and apparently way back when, sailors brought salmon to Hawaii to trade and they created this unique preparation.  This is something I want to recreate when I get home!  It was ceviche meets salsa and used very fresh Alaskan salmon.

The best view of Honolulu, the Punchbowl Crater

From there we drove to the National Cemetery of the Pacific at the Punchbowl Crater.  If you have been following the blog through this trip you know we did a day of reflection on Memorial Day.  It’s not that we needed more time to honor the fallen, but this is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Oahu!

Once again it is a volcano that collapsed in on itself forming a giant bowl at the top of the mountain.  This bowl was used to create a 116 acre national cemetery.

The very first stone was an unknown soldier who died on Pearl Harbor Day.

Plot A-1 at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, an unkown soldier who died on Pearl Harbor Day.

The cemetery is a peaceful beautiful place and anyone would enjoy it.  There are spectacular old hardwood trees and the rim of the crater offers 360° views of the island.

Spectacular hardwood trees of Hawaii

The flowers are everywhere.  More impressive in a roadway median than many well-landscaped lawns back home.  This grove below had Birds of Paradise and there were so many!

Birds of ParadiseOne more glorious view from the Punchbowl Crater.

After this visit we went back to the resort to get ready for dinner at Roy’s Ko Olina.  This is Hawaiian fusion cuisine at its best.  Roy’s combines Asian cuisine with European and American cuisine all using regional ingredients and the result is the finest meal we have had here yet!

The Mongolian Spare Rib, Ahi Sashimi, and a Chicken Spring Roll

My wife had a sampler appetizer plate which included Ahi tuna sashimi that has basically ruined both of us from mainland sushi forever!  It also came with a spring roll and a Mongolian spare rib, both of which were very good.

The Ahi Poke with roasted garlic and chilis in a rice paper bowl.

My appetizer was one of those about which I would have gloated if I were in a bigger party.  It was Ahi tuna poke mixed with roasted garlic and chilis in a rice paper bowl.  The first bite left me breathless.  After a week of eating really well this was the best thing I had eaten all week!

The roasted short ribs with poi (an acquired taste).

For the entrée my wife had the roasted short ribs.  These were reminiscent of Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, only better.  The poi was served on the side because as the server said, “it’s an acquired taste”.  As it would turn out, we did not have the funds to acquire this taste and the poi went largely untouched.

The Seared scallops with crispy pork belly served with local kobocha squash puree, natural juices, and scallion oil.

When my entrée came I thought I would have to find a room to be alone with it.  It was huge seared scallops and a pork belly confit on a puree of local kombocha squash with natural juices and scallion oil.  Again, one bite made me close my eyes and try not to moan out loud! 

It will be difficult for any restaurant to top this meal as it was a beautiful setting and fantastic food and service.  Roy’s private labels several very good wines and Greg, our excellent server was great at recommending wine pairings for each course.

We have one more full day left in Oahu before heading to Maui and it’s hard to believe we could top a day like today.

Stay tuned!

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Hawaii – Day 5 of 15, Diamond Head and the Honolulu Farmers’ Market

Diamond Head as viewed from Waikiki

Today we rose early to do some hiking.  We were headed for Diamond Head, perhaps the most iconic symbol of Oahu and the defining eastern endpoint of famed Waikiki.

The trail is not particularly challenging other than it is uphill.  It is just under a mile of gentle hiking, however it is crowded including many who are unfit to walk a mile uphill!  More on that below.

Numerous switchbacks make the trail look like an ant colony!

If you look at the picture above you can see rows of hikers all the way up from bottom to top.  Numerous switchbacks make the trail as viewed from the bottom look like an ant colony!

Near the top the trail enters a dark narrow tunnel that runs about 500 feet.  It was filled with people walking in both directions and bends at the upper end so you cannot see when it ends.  My wife, who is mildly claustrophobic, was not fond of this portion but soon we were out of that and ascending 100 steps to an interior spiral staircase that rises through the peak of the trail.

All of this was well worth it because the view at the top is glorious!

A view of the crater at the top of the mountain.

All week long I have heard people refer to Diamond Head as a crater.  I think of a crater as a hole, like when a meteor strikes the earth and makes a crater.  This was a mountain; what was I missing?

The picture above shows what you can’t see from sea level.  Centuries ago the volcano collapsed in on itself making a crater at the top.  A crater is a hole!

Down below were spectacular views of blue water, a lighthouse, the city, and suddenly…a helicopter!

Honolulu Fire & Rescue arrive to aid a distressed hiker.

Somewhere on the trail a hiker was in distress.  It didn’t surprise me because there were people of all ages including parents carrying babies, really old people, and a lot of people huffing and puffing! 

The view of the Windward Coast of Oahu was pristine and beautiful.  The view of Waikiki, on the other hand, shows a more commercial side of Hawaii.

Waikiki as seen from the top of Diamond Head Crater.

 Here I would like to point out a bit of irony.   The story goes that Joni Mitchell was staying in Hawaii when she wrote the song Big Yellow Taxi.  In the song she sings of a “pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot”.  She goes on to decry the commercialism of Waikiki saying they “paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. 

Well that pink hotel is in the center of the picture above.  It is the Royal Hawaiian and I’m pretty sure that since Joni wrote that song the parking lot has been removed!

The Royal Hawaiian

After hiking down the mountain we spent some time on the beach and ate lunch at a Waikiki institution, Dukes Barefoot Bar.  This, to me, was one of those moments when you try to lock it in because everything at that moment is the essence of where you are.  We had cold Longboard Lagers and local fish that was so fresh I thought I would weep.

The Pupu Sampler at Duke’s, Clockwise from twelve o’clock, Ahi sashimi, sesame poke, and smoked marlin.

Most notable was the Ahi sashimi.  Raw strips of tuna that melted on the tongue like a pat of butter.  There was poke, a raw tuna that is tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil and green onions, and paper-thin slices of smoked marlin.

We spent a couple hours on the beach swimming and watching surfers–the real deal!

From there we left to hit the Honolulu Farmers’ Market.  It was remarkably like the farmers’ market at home except the products were exotic and tropical.  There were coffee growers, cacao growers, and all sorts of tropical fruit.

Just like the farmers’ market at home…only different!

 There were pineapples, bananas, mangos, and papayas, all grown here on the island.

One cool thing I tried was abalone.  This is a shell fish somewhere between a clam and a snail.  They only have one shell, like the bottom half of a clam.  The open side sucks onto rocks.  Alive they look like large snails.  Cooked they look like clams and taste delicious!

The abalone has only one shell and alive looks like a large snail…

…and cooked it looks like a clam and is delicious!

 We bought a number of goodies from the market and headed back to the resort to make some dinner.  Covered in sand and exhausted from sun, a dip in the pool was at the top of the list!

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Hawaii – Day 4 of 15

The Ko Olina Wedding Chapel

Today was a day of R&R so we did not have any big adventures.  We did walk down the shore to the JW Marriott Resort.  We are at a Marriott timeshare so we had full privileges at the resort.

On the way we saw a beautiful glass chapel right on the sea.  Destination weddings are big business in Hawaii and as we walked by there was a wedding in progress!  Everyone appeared to be Japanese. 

Destination weddings are big business in Hawaii.

We got to the resort and they had a saltwater pool of beautiful fish like you would see in an aquarium.  All different colors and as we watched a gorgeous sting ray glided past.

Sting ray in the pool!

The resort is luxurious!  We sat at this opulent seaside pool and ordered lunch, a healthy one at that!

No sting rays in this pool!

Dinner this evening was totally local.  The fish was called Hebi, a Hawaiian fish similar to marlin.  it was topped with a papaya seed vinaigrette and a papaya salsa.  Beside it was a locally grown purple sweet potato (two actually!).  We sat and watched a luau performance as we dined on this local feast!

A completely local meal, Hawaiian hebi with papaya salsa and a purple Hawaiian sweet potato.Watching the luau hula from our restaurant table!

 
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Hawaii – Day 3 of 15, Pearl Harbor and Lantern Ceremony

Day 3 was Memorial Day and we decided to put beach and relaxation on hold for a day and visit Pearl Harbor.  What a great place to honor those who gave all for our safety!

"The Tree of Life" a sculpture which graces the grounds of the Pearl Harbor Memorial as well as built in to the walls of the USS Arizona Memorial

The real attraction at Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona Memorial, however the site also includes a tour through a submarine, the USS Bowfin, and a tour through a retired battleship, the USS Missouri.  They now refer to it as the Monument to Pacific Valor.

The battleship USS Missouri

Everyone you talk to here says to get there early.  We arrived at 9:00 am and they handed us tickets for the 11:00 group.  This actually worked out well because it gave us time to visit the Bowfin first.

The Bowfin is an actual World War II era submarine and with an audio tour.  You walk through it and see how the crew lived, where on the ship they worked, and how things like periscopes and ballast tanks work.  It was very interesting and definitely not something I would want to do!  For starters, there were 80 men in a space suitable for about 6.  There were fewer than 80 bunks because they operated round the clock.  When it was your turn to sleep, you went and woke someone up, he got up and went to work and you got in his bed!

Bunks aboard the submarine USS Bowfin

Then there was the issue of submarine service being the most dangerous and having the greatest loss of lives of any service!

The submarine USS Bowfin

We left the Bowfin and walked over to the USS Arizona Memorial.  This is a memorial that everyone should see.  On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, 2,400 people would lose their lives, and 1,200 would be wounded.  Nearly half of those who died would be aboard the USS Arizona.

The Arizona Memorial next to the USS Missouri

A Japanese bomb penetrated the deck of the ship and exploded in the ammunition magazine.  It is believe that the explosion vaporized most of the 1100 men below deck, as it instantly destroyed the mighty battleship.

The decision was made to leave it where it sat in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor and build a memorial over the sunken ship and tomb.

The memorial viewed from above (not my picture)

When you visit the site, a Navy boat takes you out to the memorial and you can observe the wreck of the ship just beneath the surface.  Small drops of black oil constantly bubble up to the surface, black tears they call them.

in the memorial is a wall of all those who died that day.  One remarkable thing is that the designer of the monument managed to keep this from looking like just a list of names.  The room is serene and lighted by a window sculpture called the Tree of Life built into the side wall.  The room is square and the enclosure draws your attention to the wall and has a chapel-like feel.  It is a very moving monument.

On this, Memorial Day, many had lain Hawaiian leis at the foot of the wall.

One very touching feature is a small wall, about two feet high in front of it listing the names of survivors interred on the Arizona.  As those who survived have passed away, they have the privilege of being buried below with their shipmates.  The guide at the site said it is a very moving and private ceremony when it happens.  Divers take the urn across the water and hold it at the surface while they themselves are submerged.  When the family leaves, they bring it below and allow the veteran’s remains to rest aboard the Arizona.  The guide said today there are 22 living survivors with an average age of 91 years old. 

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is overall a wonderful place to visit.  They begin with perfect weather everyday.  If you have ever stood at Arlington National Cemetery on a hot humid day you would appreciate this.  The grounds are beautiful and promote reflection and respect.  There is a series of museums and exhibits which are accessible without being dumbed down.  If you ever visit Oahu, this is a must-see.

An estimated 40,000 people attended the Annual Lantern Floating Ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park.

That evening there was a local ceremony at the main beach, Ala Moana Beach Park.  It was the annual Lantern Floating Ceremony.  Ala Moana Park  is Honolulu’s version of the National Mall.  There were an estimated 40,000 people there and many had obtained a lantern they would float onto the ocean in memory of a lost one. (www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com)

The lanterns were square boxes, a candle within, on a little surfboard shaped like a home plate.  They had a rudder and would be released at sunset.

Lanterns were personalized with prayers and messages for loved ones.

We arrived to find a huge stage and numerous big screens through the crowd for those too far away to see the stage.  The beach is crescent shaped and there were people everywhere. 

Hawaii has a large Japanese population and this ceremony has its roots in Japanese Buddhist tradition.  It was, however, an interfaith event which included a rabbi, a Maryknoll nun, and many other representatives of different faiths.  By floating a lantern out onto the sea, the belief is that it allows the living to connect with the dead.  This year the ceremony was not only for servicemen who had lost their lives, but also for victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the tornadoes on the mainland, and anyone else who had lost someone special.

Throughout the day these people came to the park and obtained a lantern on which they wrote the name of their loved ones, a prayer or message, and their thoughts.

The ceremony took place at sunset at the welcoming site of Ala Moana Beach Park.

The ceremony took place at sunset and they had beautiful reflective music and a lyrical buddhist chant to music.  As the sun set, Her Holiness Shinso Ito of the Shin-nyo-en Buddhist order said a prayer and from throughout the crowd people came forward with their lanterns and walked through the crowd to the waterfront.  They set them on the water and the tide took them out.

Out on the water were traditional Hawaiian canoes, large ones that held 8 or 10 men.  They paddled through the sea of lanterns, slowly navigating across the bay.  There were 3,000 lanterns, each a beacon or star for someone lost.  They soon filled the landscape and the sun, now set made the sky a beautiful pink and orange and the silhouette of the canoes gave the scene a surreal and comforting feel.

At first there were just a few, with a cruise ship in the background.

It was not a tourist attraction and the crowd was mostly local.  I feel very fortunate to have had the experience and it was a moment of reflection and joy that I will never forget.

In the end, 3,000 lanterns bearing messages to the departed floated out to sea.

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Hawaii – Day 2 of 15 The North Shore

Day 2 would be our first full day in Hawaii and it was going to be a long one because we were still on east coast time.  At one point I woke up at 12:30 am pretty much rested!  I managed to sleep until 5:00 and then finally got up.  My wife swam laps in a pool she had all to herself while I went to the fitness center.  It’s pretty tough to beat an elliptical machine that looks out over the Pacific Ocean as the sun comes up!

We decided we would explore Oahu’s North Shore.  This is the absolute opposite end of the hustle-bustle Waikiki, not only geographically but in every other way. 

Oahu's North Shore, map courtesy North Shore Chamber of Commerce

To get there we drove up the center of the island.  This is a landmass formed from volcanic activities and the landscape is dramatically beautiful!  As we drove through a fertile valley planted with pineapples (the Dole plantation), coffee, and coccoa, on either side of us was breathtaking lush green mountains.  I felt like I was on the set of Lost, or Survivor!

Coccoa plantation with mountains and sea in background

We arrived at the town of Haleiva and drove west all the way to Kaena Point.  It was here that we found our own deserted private beach.  On one side of the street was a small airstrip, a glider-port to be exact.  The whole time we were there we saw planes towing gliders up into the air and a while later they would come arc’ing into the strip to land. 

We also saw a plane drop a dozen skydivers all at once!

On our side of the street however, was a beach that went on as far as the eye could see, and about 6 other people!

Practically our own private beach!

I could not believe that here we were in Hawaii and seemed to have the place all to ourselves.  I knew it would be a different story in Waikiki, but that was for another day.

We were swimming in what was a pounding hard surf.  Occasionally we would look up to the beach to see we had drifted quite far from our towels and bags.

We also had several friends in the water!  Sea turtles were everywhere!  They would wash around in the surf, occasionally coming up for air but otherwise seemed happy to just float around.

Sea Turtle

We left the beach for the town of Waialua.  There we found an old sugar plantation that is now a coffee and coccoa business.  The owner explained that those were his fields we saw coming into the north shore and that they did the drying here, but did the roasting at another site.  We tried a sample of Waialua coffee (very good!) and tasted raw coccoa beans, unroasted but dried, very cool!

An old sugar processing plant, this spot in Waialua now grows and dried coffee and coccoa.

We continued to explore the coast, pulling into a store or beach when it looked interesting.  We ate in Haleiwa.  This is a classic laid back surfer town.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant called Cholo’s and even Mexican food here has a distinct Hawaiin twist.  The fish taco is grilled ahi, the margarita is prepared with a Hawaiin tart spice called Li-Hing, and the restaurant is, like most buildings here, open air.

The Li-Hing Margarita

The food and the geography, the friendly people, it was all so inspiring that we decided to assemble the ingredients and flavors we had experienced to make dinner at our villa this night.

I bought some ahi tuna, as well as a tuna dish called Poke (pronounced pok-ay).  This is a sushi style dish in which sashimi grade tuna is tossed with soy sauce, seaweed, green onions, and sesame seeds.  It is so fresh and amazing!

Hawaiin Poke

We bought fresh local grown fruit, papaya, pineapple, and Hawaiin grown long beans, string beans which are each about a foot long.

The result for dinner that night was fantastic!  Seared ahi tuna on a bed of asian cabbage slaw served with cucumber kim chee and fresh papaya.  For me this was the best of both worlds.  I got to cook, which I love, but Hawaii provided the inspiration, and the ingredients!

Seared Ahi tuna on a bed of sesame cabbage slaw with cucumber kim chee and fresh papaya

This time we made it until it got dark, so we are beginning to adjust to the 6 hour time difference. 

Tomorrow would be Memorial Day and we planned to visit Pearl Harbor.

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Hawaii – Day 1 of 15

Sunrise at National Airport

About three years ago my mom told me that she wanted to send me and my wife to Hawaii for our 25th wedding anniversary.  At the time it seemed so far away and so much would happen in the ensuing three years that it did not really register. 

A year ago, my mom had not forgotten and called to say she had to book the trip a year in advance to get the best accommodations and would I please pick a date and a couple islands!

OK, that made it real, and for the following year it has been on my calendar. Two weeks in Hawaii, flying first class both ways…does “Thank you Mom!” really begin to express it?
 Perhaps not, but thank you Mom!
 So if you want to see what a week in Oahu and a week in Maui can bring, keep an eye on the blog for the next couple weeks.
 Day 1 began at 5am because we needed to be at the airport at 5:30.  I would see the sun rise in Washington, DC and watch it set 18 1/2 hours later.  Long day.  We flew to Atlanta and then had a 9 hour flight from Atlanta to Honolulu.  I felt almost guilty it was so luxurious in 1st class!  I occasionally get upgraded on domestic flights but I have never seen the 1st class cabin of a wide-body plane!  It is so luxurious!  Even your luggage gets tagged 1st class and that means it comes out 1st!  The seats recline all the way, they massage your back, and support your legs.  The flight attendants walk around constantly with a basket of snacks, fresh fruit, and alcohol, all included!  although it is a very long flight, part of me didn’t want it to end.
 When we picked up our rental car, the person at the desk asked what the occasion was and when we said it was just the two of us on our 25th wedding anniversary she said, well you have to drive in style!  I’m upgrading you to a Mustang convertible at no extra charge! 

The view from our lanai (porch)

We drove to our resort, the Marriott Ko Olina.  This is a bit removed from the overcrowding of Waikiki, on the beautiful and apparently constantly sunny Leeward Coast.  We got checked into our villa and a short time later were enjoying a pitcher of Longboard Lager and a cheeseburger in Paradise! 

My own blue lagoon!

The beach at the resort is in a lagoon.  When I hear the word “lagoon” I think of two things, “Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon”, and Gilligan, as in, “Skipper, something happened in the lagoon!”
 

Almost sunset, 1:00am eastern time!

Now I have a lagoon of my own for a week!
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Buffalo Chicken Flatbread

Last night was dubbed “Flatbread Friday”.  We had a collection of friends at the house and wanted a meal that was fun, casual, and not a lot of work.

The base for all of ours was the Boboli pizza crust, but in the future I would seek out a thinner base simply so we could try more styles before being full.

The hit of the night was the Buffalo Chicken Flatbread.

The Buffalo Chicken Flatbread

I started by slicing three boneless chicken breasts into quarter-inch thick slices.  (this made two pizzas.)  I tossed the chicken strips with salt and pepper and sautéed them in a large skillet.  I was mostly interested in browning them and did not need to cook them thoroughly because they would cook more in the oven.

After flipping them and cooking on both sides I moved the chicken to a clean bowl and generously doused them with hot sauce.  My wife is from Buffalo, so in our house one wouldn’t think of using anything other than the original, Frank’s Hot Sauce!

I let that sit for a while to let some of the juices come out of the chicken. 

To assemble the flatbread I began by spreading a thin layer of shredded mozzarella on the pizza crust.  Then I tossed the chicken mixture to mix the hot sauce with the chicken juices.  I spread the strips evenly over two crusts and then drizzled the remaining liquid over them.

I then sprinkled crumbled blue cheese over it all and baked in the oven according to the directions on the crust.  In the case of the Boboli it was 10-12 min at 450.  When it came out I drizzled a little more hot sauce on the top as a

 garnish.

Just as with Buffalo wings, the mixture of the earthy soft blue cheese and the sharp vinegary hot sauce was a real winner!

There is not much I would do to adjust this one, it was loved by our entire crowd and Flatbread Friday was judged a success!

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Sesame Crusted Tuna with Sesame Noodles

My family spent the last four days driving to Vermont to see our oldest child graduate from college. It rained steadily the entire time we were there! From Saturday afternoon through Tuesday morning it rained! For all I know it may still be raining in Vermont.

The graduation was lovely, and even though packing Julia’s apartment in the rain was a chore, we had a lot of fun. There were lots of inside family jokes and genuinely funny moments. Even the 11 hour drive home was OK, and as we crossed the 14th St Bridge from DC into Virginia, the sun came out as if to say, “Welcome home!”

We moved all the stuff into our house and I stood looking at what used to be a dining room but was now a self-storage unit. It was then that Julia told me the first thing she wanted me to make for dinner that she missed while being away at school. She wanted Sesame Crusted Tuna with Sesame Noodles.

Other than the fact that we wouldn’t be eating in the dining room, I couldn’t have been happier!

The tuna recipe is quite simple, you just have to understand the technique. In the case of a beef steak the difference between rare and well-done is determined by how long you cook it. In the case of something covered with sesame seeds, the cooking time will always be the same because any longer will burn the seeds; so, the difference between rare and well-done is determined by how thick the steak is.

Brush tuna steaks with oil, season with salt and pepper, and cover with sesame seeds.

Most restaurants use a thick cut and the tuna is raw in the center. This works for a lot of people, but if you like it pink in the center, use a thinner piece. Generally speaking, a tuna steak an inch thick cooked for 3-4 minutes on each side will have a pink center.

There are, however, a lot of variables. how cold the tuna is to begin with, how hot and how thick the pan is, and how much oil used.

Don’t cook with a clock, cook with your eyes, ears, and nose!

The technique is very basic, brush tuna steaks with oil, season with salt and pepper, and cover with sesame seeds. Sautee in a skillet. Cook it long enough to brown the seeds and form a crust, but not so long that they scorch.

Sesame Noodles

Sesame noodles are also quite simple.  Whisk five ingredients in a large bowl, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, vegetable oil and sesame oil.  Add cooked pasta or Japanese noodles and garnish with any or all of cilantro, sesame seeds, scallions and chives.

Mix cooked pasta with five ingredients, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, and sesame oil. Garnish with any of scallions, chives, cilantro, or sesame seeds.

The amounts of the five ingredients are not precise and are somewhat to taste, but roughly, you want a quarter cup of peanut butter, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a couple tablespoons of the vinegar, a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of sesame oil.  This should be right for a pound of pasta.  The pasta tends to want to soak up all the sauce, but if you add more of any one ingredient you can throw off the balance, so instead thin it with a few spoonsful of the water used to cook the pasta.

The important thing about this recipe is that it is not precise like baking.  Taste the sauce before you add the noodles.  It shouldn’t taste like any one ingredient.  If all you taste is peanut butter, add more of the other four ingredients.  If it’s too salty, use less soy sauce the next time.  Experiment.  If you don’t have rice vinegar, cider vinegar will work, and if you throw out all the water when you pour the pasta in a colander, just use tap water.

What you will find is that in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, you can prepare the rest of the meal and in the course of a regular weeknight meal, you can serve something for which McCormick and Schmick charges $24.95!

The freshly graduated Julia Trombly!

π

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